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Changes recommended to mental health act

23 December 2014

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Young people with a mental health problem should not be held in police custody says a Government report. 

The Home Office and Department of Health joint review of sections 135 and 136 of  the Mental Health Act 1983 the Government recommended that the current act be altered to disallow under-18s with suspected mental health problems being held in police custody. 

It also advised on shortening the time that an individual can be held under sections 135 and 136 of the act. 

Sections 135 and 136 of the current act give police officers the power to enter private property (section 135) or a public place (section 136) to remove a person in need of an urgent mental health assessment. After being removed they can currently be held in police custody for a maximum of 72 hours. 

Dr Paul Lelliott, the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals and lead for mental health, said: 

“We were pleased to see that the recommendations made in the report build on those that we made in our report, A safer place to be, earlier this year – and also welcome the call for legislative change designed to end the unacceptable practice of children and young people ending up in a police cell when they experience a crisis.” 

The review comes after the case of a 16-year old girl came to media attention on 29 November. Senior police officers had to detain her under the Mental Health Act for two days due to the lack of beds across the country. 

Tom Sandford, Director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, said: “Holding young people with mental health problems in police cells is a national scandal and the Government must move faster to prevent these incidents occurring. 

 “It’s horrendous that any patient should be taken into police custody due to a lack of mental health beds – it’s particularly unacceptable that hundreds of children and young people each year are being subjected to this. 

“A police station cell is not a suitable environment for a young person with mental health issues and it can be an extremely upsetting experience for them. 

“Many nursing staff are caring for children and young people with mental health problems, from school nurses through to specialist children’s mental health nurse consultants, and every day they can see the consequences of inadequate provision making it too hard for young patients to access appropriate services. 

 “A genuine commitment to improving care for these children and young people requires a commitment to properly funding the specialist services that help them.”